This summer I got to visit France for my first study abroad trip as a global engagement fellow. My first trip abroad was through Price College’s Vichy, France program. This program allows students to complete several upper division courses while traveling to France. During the first few days of our trip my peers and I stayed in Paris and went sightseeing for quite some time. Paris, like many people would think, is a highly romanticized city with its own feel. There was a surprising amount of freedom on the trip and we were pretty much allowed to explore for several hours on end. Going to Paris was a bit overwhelming for me. I was severely jet-lagged and would often wake up at 4AM and stay awake until 8AM when everyone else got up.
From the times I have traveled abroad I’ve realized that I particularly enjoy learning about the history behind certain landmarks and locations. My favorite part of going to Paris was seeing the Arc de Triomphe. The structure is immersed with history and meaning. I particularly liked learning about how the allied forces reclaimed France from Hitler when they marched through the Arc and hung their flags up. Moreover, the names of the generals who fought for France are also engraved in the inner walls of the Arc. Other notable landmarks I got to see include the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombs, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, and the Palace of Versailles.
All in all, there wasn’t a whole lot of culture shock I experienced while I was in Paris. However, there are some differences in the way people communicate and spend time. For example, the French like to enjoy their time much more than we would in the United States. Sitting in a restaurant often takes 2-3 hours and dining is often done outside. Moreover, tipping isn’t customarily done in restaurants. In France, waiters are payed a fair amount and do not need to rely on the quality of service to accrue money. Like many countries, this sets France apart from America’s service industry.
For the most part, I found Paris enjoyable. It was a long three days, but it was a great experience.
On campus, I take part in this organization called the Vietnamese Student Association. Last Spring, I was the Vice-President External. This means that I attended events in conjunction with the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations in the Southern region. UVSA South is a intercollegiate organization that joins VSAs in Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas. During the spring, UVSA South holds an annual leadership conference called Summit. Here, students within the South convene and develop leadership and professional skills while developing lasting friendships.
It was my second time attending the program this year. It is usually planned at the University of Texas at Dallas. However, this year they decided to switch locations and do it at the University of Texas at Arlington. All in all, I had a lot of fun going. It was basically a three day leadership camp. The program featured cultural performances, interactive games, workshop break out sessions, and family bonding. The professional workshops definitely provide an interesting opportunity for Vietnamese Americans to learn about networking, resume building, and their professional careers. This year, they split attendees by their majors. I thought this was particularly beneficial. However, the amount of attendees often overwhelm the speakers. In my opinion, it could have used work and more thorough planning.
Attendance every year usually peaks around 300 to 350 attendees. My experience going has always been relatively pleasant. Although I’m not really for going to camps, I always enjoy seeing my distant friends and connecting about our Vietnamese heritage.
During the Spring semester, I got to attend a film screening in Farzaneh for Out in the Dark. Out in the Dark is a movie directed by Michael Mayer about Nimer, an ambitious Palestinian student who faces adversity for his sexuality and nationality. Nimer falls in love with Roy, a Israeli lawyer. However, after Nimer’s close friend is persecuted for being homosexual, Nimer faces making a decision between Roy or the life he intended to pursue.
This film not only speaks about the struggles for sexuality in Palestinian cultures, but also of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nimer faces challenges in both areas as he struggles with his identity as a gay man. Nimer and Roy became increasingly precautious about their love as they feared the consequences. Moreover, Nimer is also persecuted and pressured to be an informant for the Israeli Secret Service. All in all, I thought the movie was really good. It touched base with the cultural boundaries of the Arab-Israeli conflict while cinematically creating a powerful film.
In March, I took the opportunity to go to a film screening of the documentary, 8 Borders, 8 Days in Farzaneh. This documentary films the story of a strong, Syrian mother and her two children’s journey to safety. This film particularly sheds light on the consequences of the United States closing the doors on families like Sham’s (the mother). After being denied entry into the United States, Sham was determined to find safety for her children no matter the consequences. Her journey and her children across eight different borders in just eight days. Through sleepless nights, constant traveling, and fearlessness Sham and her children were able to make it to London.
What drew me to the film was the ongoing debate between immigration and how its being handled in the United States. According to the film, America, a country with an abundance of resources has taken little effort to help take in Syrian refugees who are fleeing war. In fact, during the launch of this documentary, America had only accepted 2000 refugees. In comparison, Lebanon, a much smaller country, reported accepting over 1.5 million Syrian refugees.
The ongoing Syrian refugee crisis is an issue that should not be addressed to just the United States but to the world. Hundreds and thousands of pictures have surfaced about the atrocities and tragedies of this war. However, wealthier and more developed countries are not willing to open their borders to house the millions of refugees who need shelter and safety. For instance, Hungary erected a border wall and chose to close its borders with Serbia in an effort to restrict Syrian immigration into Europe. This ongoing pattern of xenophobia among countries needs to stop. Following the film I looked into the Syrian Refugee Crisis a bit more and found it absolutely horrendous that innocent civilians in Syria were being denied access. As the Syrian Civil War continues to kill thousands upon thousands and leave millions without homes, countries need to start seeing this crisis in a more humane manner. Its not just illegal immigrants that are crossing their borders, its mothers, children, and families who need safety and protection.
Towards the end of the Spring semester I got to go to the final bit of the Cold War lecture series. The discussion featured personal and professional memoirs by Dr. John Fishel. The content of the lecture was a bit confusing. From what I heard, Dr. John Fishel was less informative and very opinionated. I didn’t really understand the context of what he was speaking about or the overall point he was trying to convey. However, I did pick up on some things. For example, during the Cold War, the Bush administration was plagued with miscommunication and misguidance among U.S. officials. For instance, around the time of the 2011 attack on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, the United States knew Sudan had weapons. However, when the United States came into Sudan, they were nowhere to be found. Was this miscommunication and poor decision making for U.S. officials? Regardless, this example showcases common issues during this period.
Pertaining to the title of this post, by the end of the Cold War, China began to rise as a superpower. Afterwards, Vladimir Putin decided to become particularly active in the middle east while challenging U.S. supremacy. This results in the United States feeling threatened by China and Russia. In addition, rogue states began arising in North Korea and Iran. Dr. John Fishel ended the lecture by asking whether or not the our actions in the Cold War were worthwhile.
All in all, I wish I went to the two other Cold War lectures. I might have understood the context of Dr. Fishel’s statement or the direction of his viewpoints a bit more. However, it seemed like he was critical of how U.S. officials reacted and took action during the Cold War. The miscommunication among U.S. officials may have done more harm then originally intended. Essentially, during the Cold War the United States engaged in a lot of unnecessary conflicts with the intent of competing for the ideals of Democracy. Although U.S. intentions were initially pure, miscommunication and fear caused U.S. officials to make questionable choices in action and policy. The resulting hostility during this period ended with the arrival of threats from North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran.
During international studies week I attended a talk on the Peace Corps and how to get involved. I thought the discussion was really insightful and helpful. The Peace Corps is a service driven opportunity for people who want to leave a positive impact on the world. It allows individuals in the U.S. to immerse themselves in the community abroad and tackle challenging issues in global communities. Through the discussion or seminar I learned how to get involved in the Peace Corps. To get involved you have to prove our intercultural competence, complete 3 courses that may include 50 hours to hands on training and be proficient in a language. You should also display professionalism and leadership capabilities as well as have had resume and interview prep if necessary. By going through the Peace Corps individuals can earn stipends, health benefits and a certificate for their work. However, the global experience gained through joining the program and the recognition you may receive from it is invaluable.
I imagine the program is highly competitive. Honestly, I wish I had the confidence to apply for something like the Peace Corps. It seems very out of my current field of study but to be able to travel abroad and make a tangible difference peoples lives is amazing. I can only imagine the ambition and skillset that those who apply must have. I decided to go this talk in specific because Ive always been mildly interested in what the program was about. I really think that if I had majored in IAS or really involved myself in the College of International Area Studies I would’ve looked into joining programs like this more. I wish the other colleges put a stronger emphasis in global knowledge and understanding.
This year I’m involved in OU’s Vietnamese Student Association again and had the opportunity of going to Baylor University’s Lunar Moon Festival as OU VSA’s Vice President External. Through going to the external event I was not only able to meet many involved students on Baylor’s campus as well as within UVSA South’s community, but also garner knowledge for how to improve and regulate our VSA at OU! All in all, Baylor’s campus is extremely beautiful and the drive down was definitely worth the hassle. The night started with formal introductions of different schools within the southern region and ended with a traditional lion dance. The event included performances from different VSA’s and cultural performances from different student organizations on campus including the University of Texas’s VSA and Lambda Phi Epsilon.
In the fall I went to one of the Latin American Luncheons hosted by the College of international Studies. The luncheon was really nice and extremely informative. The luncheon covered how some Latin American countries have used conditional cash transfers to aid those in poverty. Conditional cash transfers are government exchanges of cash in exchange for families in poverty putting their children through formal education and keeping them there. Thing like student attendance in classes were recorded and kept to allow the cash transfers to continue. The luncheon covered several programs in Latin America such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia and Columbia’s Susidios Condicionados a La Asistencia Escolar. The lunchon aimed to talk about the success and failure of these programs as well as how they can improve. One issue with the program regards the recent sense of political disdain towards it. Although in some areas, Conditional Cash Transfers have proved to be beneficial to both the community and impoverished families by increasing the amount of children in school while alleviating families in poverty, in others, citizens in Latin America have started to hold a sense of distain towards the programs. Wealthier officials often believe that these programs are wasting tax paying money and giving it to a undeserving sect of the population.
All in all, conditional cash transfer programs like Bolsa Familia rely on the support of its citizens to ensure its continuation and prosperity. They can be extremely beneficial to poverty stricken areas by providing lower class citizens with the means to feed and support themselves but rely on the families underneath them to ensure satisfactory improvements and results.
During the fall semester I decided to go see this movie based off an email I got from the Global Engagement Advisor, Bushra! The movie covered the tale of two young women trying to get an illegal abortion in Romania. Above all else, the movie showcases issues with gender equality in Romania. Although the Romanian government has made efforts to increase and support gender equality, the government still has a long way towards attaining equality. Overall, the movie was extremely realistic and offered a grim portrayal of the reality of how some women have to attain the ability to abort their fetuses in Romania. The movie seemed to reflect the reality of women’s rights after the Decree of 770 in 1966. In 1966 the Decree strongly rendered the rights of women by deeming them as second class citizens with no rights to be heard. During this period, sexual education and the use of contraceptives were scarce in the Romanian state.
Personally, I found the movie hard to watch because it reflects the dark reality of many women today. The world still has a long way before attaining reasonable forms of socioeconomic, gender, and racial equality.
This week I had the opportunity to attend Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe. The lecture was held at Zarrow Hall by Dr. Reinhard Heinisch. I decided to attend this lecture purely out of obligation. I realized that this lecture would not only count towards my Global Engagement requirements but it would also count as an extra credit opportunity in my Understanding the Global Community class. In this lecture, Dr. Reinhard Heinisch attempted to explain the rise of radical populist parties in Europe and the long-term implications of this phenomena. In general, populism is the political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite and seeks to solve this. From the lecture, it seems that populism In recent years, Europe has experienced a rise in radical populism and it isn’t just a momentary trend. It’s on the rise because this kind of party is highly mobile, flexible, and represents more than just one pool of voters. In fact, in the lecture, Dr. Reinard Heize, explained that populism steals from both left and right wing parties. As a result, the rise and growth of populism in Europe has caused rises in emerging political parties, nationalism/nativism and anti-globalist views.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture but wish Dr. Reinhard would’ve delved more into the effects of populism and its future implications. Overall, increased nationalism and anti-globalist views in Europe is alarming and leads me to question whether this rise in populism will lead to large increases in racism and paranoia in Europe. The rise of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views already seems to be proof of this. The masses in Europe seem to fear losing their social identity and sense of control. Moreover, how far will the rise in populism set globalist ideals back? For the most part, in recent years, the world has undergone a steady process of globalization that has spread trade, technology, and capital across global boundaries. However, as the rise of nationalism and nativism increases in Europe the masses will undoubtedly want to stray away from the globalist agenda. I feel that in the upcoming years this could eventually mean decreases in international correspondence and negotiation as every country will be more concerned with their own social and political agenda. Alarmingly, this could in turn also weaken larger international bodies like NATO and the United Nations. However, the bigger concern is that, the world can’t afford this type of social and political development. In order to ensure changes in larger issues like inequality and environmental sustainability, cooperation and understanding need to be continued.